For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome,
I. THE REASON OF THE OBLIGATION OF BROTHERLY LOVE. The duty to love our Christian brethren is here based upon our common relation to God. The order of the apostle's thought seems to be this:
1. The Christian brother is a true believer in Jesus the Christ. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ" is included by St. John among the Christian fraternity. The genuine Christian accepts Jesus as the Christ of God, the Anointed of the Father for the great work of human redemption. He looks to him as the Being in whom ancient prophecies are fulfilled, and in whom the noblest expectation and the purest desire of the human race are realized. And the belief of which the apostle writes is not the mere intellectual acceptation of the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, but the hearty acceptation of Jesus himself as the Saviour appointed by God. Every one who thus receives him is a true member of the Christian brotherhood.
2. Every true believer in Jesus the Christ is a child of God. "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God." Where there is genuine faith in our Lord and Saviour there is a new moral disposition. The Christian believer is born anew of the Spirit of God. "As many as received him [i.e., Jesus the Christ], to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his Name," etc. (John 1:12, 13). "If any man is in Christ he is a new creature," etc. (2 Corinthians 5:17) - he has new sympathies, new purposes, new principles, new relationships, a new spirit. He has the filial spirit, "the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father."
3. Every child of God should be loved by the children of God. "Whosoever loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him."
(1) It is taken for granted that the child of God loves his Divine Parent. In whomsoever the new life beats there is love to God. In the spiritual realm love is life. "Every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God." The highest life is that of supreme love to God; and, where this is, love to the brotherhood will not be absent. "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar," etc. (1 John 4:20, 21).
(2) From the fact that the child of God loves his Divine Parent, St. John makes this deduction, that he will love the children of God. It is natural and right that he who loves the Father should also love his children, or that the children of the one Father should love each other. Here, then, is the reason of the obligation to love our Christian brethren. We believe in one Lord and Saviour; we are children of the one Divine Father; we are members of one spiritual family; we are characterized by some measure of moral resemblance to each other, for each is to some extent like unto the Father of all; we are animated by the same exalted and invigorating hope; and we are looking forward to the same bright and blessed home. That we should love each other is in the highest degree natural and reasonable.
II. THE EVIDENCE OF THE: GENUINENESS OF BROTHERLY LOVE. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God," etc. (verses 2, 3). Two remarks, we think, will help us to apprehend the meaning of St. John.
1. Our love to the brethren is genuine when we love God. "Hereby we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and do his commandments." We may love our Christian brethren for other and inferior reasons than that of their relation to the heavenly Father; we may love them because they are rich in worldly goods, or because they are gifted and clever, or because they arc amiable and attractive, or because they bold the same political principles, or believe the same theological opinions, or belong to the same ecclesiastical party, as we do. But love for any of these reasons is not necessarily and essentially Christian love. The genuine Christian affection towards the brethren is to love them because they believe that Jesus is the Christ, and they are the children of God. In the consciousness of our love to God we have evidence that we love our Christian brethren as his children.
2. Our love to God is genuine when we cheerfully keep his commandments. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous."
(1) The divinely appointed test of love to God is obedience to his commandments. "If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me," etc. (John 14:15, 21, 23); "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love," etc. (John 15:10); "This is love, that we should walk after his commandments" (2 John 1:6). Genuine love is not a merely sentimental, but a practical thing.
(2) The obedience which springs from love is cheerful. "His commandments are not grievous" to them that love him. Love is not only life, but inspiration, courage, and strength; therefore, as love to God increases, obedience to his commands becomes easier and more delightful. "I confess," says Watson, "to him that hath no love to God, religion must needs be a burden; and I wonder not to hear him say, ' What a weariness is it to serve the Lord!' It is like rowing against the tide. But love oils the wheels; it makes duty a pleasure. Why are the angels so swift and winged in God's service, but because they love him? Jacob thought seven years but little for the love he did bear to Rachel. Love is never weary; he who loves money is not weary of toiling for it; and he who loves God is not weary of serving him." Says Miss Austin, "Where love is there is no labour; and if there he labour, that labour is loved." Will our love to God bear this test of cheerful obedience to his commands? Then do we love him truly; and so loving him, we shall love all his children. - W.J.
His commandments are not grievous
I. LOVE MAKES MEN EARNEST TO OBEY — "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." Love makes it easy to obey — "for His commandments are not grievous." Now, there followed on the entrance of evil into Paradise a great degeneration of human capacities, but not in strict truth an actual destruction. Love, beneath every state, has been, and still is, a working principle, so that on whatever object it fastens it urges at once whether to the undertaking of labour or the endurance of privation. You may perceive from the commonest instances of everyday life that from love considered as the working principle of man, springs all that complex mechanism which is made up of the business of an active population. We take this acknowledged fact as a fair groundwork of argument, that if the rational soul be driven out as it were from the circle of the animal, and man be taught to love the Creator, in place of centering all his affection on the creature, all his faculties will quickly be enlisted in the service of God. Thus it is quite demonstrable that the love of God must produce the keeping His commandments. You put a principle into the immortal part of man which causes that part to rise from her degradation and to vindicate the almost forgotten nobleness of her mission. God is then known, for until God is loved He is not and cannot be known. The reason is simple and Scriptural. Love is not so much an attribute of God as His very essence. And if, therefore, in order to our loving God, there must be a supernatural bringing home to the heart of the love which God hath turned on the wandering and the lost, it is evident that we know only as we love Him, seeing that to love God presupposes an acquaintance with God as love. From this reasoning we fetch fresh illustration that the loving God is keeping His commandments. It is not merely because I love Him I shall of necessity be anxious to please Him, and therefore to obey Him; but in the degree that I love Him, in that same degree do I know Him, and to know Him is to obtain altogether a different view of His character and properties from any which I have heretofore possessed. It is to have done with vague and indefinite notions, and to entertain others which are strict and unbending; it is to understand with something of precision the power and place of His every attribute, and thus to sweep from my calculation all those mountains of lies which the world are building out of mistaken properties of Godhead. And if through the act of loving the Creator I thus pass to such a knowledge of His several characteristics as have never hitherto found place in my mind, why, love must throw an inexpressible power into the commandments; it must make their every letter breathe of Deity.
II. Now we desire to show you, in explaining our text, that love not only makes men earnest in obeying, but that THE OBEDIENCE WHICH IT PRODUCES IT ALSO RENDERS EASY. The man who is making it the business of his days to endeavour to obey God's commandments is only striving to exhibit to others the beauty of a system to which he himself is bound. Conscious of the glory of every property of the Almighty; conscious also that as a mirror each property figures itself in law with the most accurate fidelity, his efforts to fulfil the requirements of this law are so many struggles in the sight of the world, that "men seeing His good works, may glorify His Father which is in heaven." If this be a true account of Christian obedience, it plainly follows that whatever God's commandments may be to the man who merely observes their tenor, to the man who is striving with all his heart and all his soul to obey them, they are not, and they cannot be, grievous. He sees a beauty and a holiness and a wisdom in their every enactment, in their every requisition, even the beauty, the holiness and the wisdom of Him who delivered such a code to His creatures. And when, therefore, he sets himself to the keeping the law, and so to the endeavouring to express in living and legible characters the moral loveliness which has been disclosed to him by the Spirit, we see not how he can find it burdensome, though he may find obedience difficult in the writing, in the vivid tracery of action what God hath written in the rich alphabet of tits purposes. Are the commandments of Satan grievous to those who are His bondsmen? grievous when they bid them handle the wine cup, mix in the carnival, and gather the gold? And why not grievous? Are they not heavy with the chains of the prison house, ponderous with accumulated penalties, burdened with woe and wrath sufficient to weigh down creation? Yet to those who obey them, they are not grievous. The inclination is towards obedience; and when these meet there cannot be grievousness. In like manner are the commandments of God not grievous to those who are His children. And why not grievous? Are they not weighty with massive duties, laden with impositions under which the very giants in religion sink and bow down? We own it, yet we maintain that to those who obey they are not grievous. The desire is towards obedience; the wish, the longing, all are towards obedience. And if God by His grace have brought round such a revolution of the sentiments and affections, that keeping His commandments is synonymous with loving Him, you must show that loving God is "grievous" ere you can show that His commandments are "grievous."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)I. RELIGION IS NOT AN IMPRACTICABLE THING, AS SOME MEN SUGGEST, BUT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO LIVE UP TO IT. Take the hardest part of the Christian yoke, that is to say, forgiveness of enemies, denying our worldly interests, and renouncing all we have for the sake of Jesus Christ. Yet there is nobody can say that these things are impossible. Thousands have actually done all these things, and that upon far lighter motives and considerations than Christ's religion offers. And if these things be practicable, why must we not think the same of the rest of the Christian precepts, such as owning God for our Creator, and as such paying Him our constant tribute of worship, and prayer, and praise, using with temperance and moderation the good things He vouchsafes us, being honest and just and faithful in all our dealings, and showing kindness and charity to all our fellow creatures. Ay, but it will be said I have not fairly represented the matter; the impossibility of keeping God's commandments doth not lie in any particular instance of duty; but the objection is that our duty is impracticable in the whole. But it was never intended to leave out of the account the gracious allowances that God hath promised by Christ Jesus to make for the infirmities of human nature.
II. AS THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD ARE NOT GRIEVOUS UPON ACCOUNT THAT THEY ARE IMPOSSIBLE, SO NEITHER ARE THEY GRIEVOUS IN THIS RESPECT, THAT THEY ARE UNNATURAL, OR A FORCE UPON THE CONSTITUTION OF MANKIND. As long as human nature is as it is, the happiness of mankind can consist in nothing else but in using their liberty according to the best rules of reason, and those we are sure are but another name for the laws of religion. And the very transgressing those rules, though God had annexed no penalties to the transgression, would of itself have found a sufficient punishment. Ay, but it will be said, is it not plain that men are born with several strong inclinations to pleasure, to wealth, to power, and greatness, and the like? And doth not religion put a terrible curb upon all those appetites and passions, how then can you call the laws of it agreeable to nature? Why, to this I answer, that as to all the appetites and passions that men are born, religion, as it is taught .us in the gospel, doth not hinder the satisfaction of any of them. All that our religion forbids is the irregularity and exorbitancy of our passions.
III. LET OUR NATURAL INABILITIES AND OUR AVERSIONS TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD BE AS GREAT AS THEY WILL, YET THE SUPERNATURAL ASSISTANCE WE MAY EXPECT FROM GOD FOR THE CARRYING ON OF THIS WORK WILL BE SUFFICIENT AT LEAST TO MAKE THE SCALES EVEN. Though the devil and our own corrupt natures may tempt us strongly one way, yet the spirit of Christ and His invisible attendants that pitch their tents round about us, do incline us as much the other way. Nor can there be any snares laid for us by the wicked one, but what by the assistance of this invisible spiritual army that fights for us we shall easily break and overcome.
IV. This ought also to be acknowledged in this argument, that though there be great difficulties in religion, though as the temper of mankind now generally stands it is much against the grain to serve God, yet these difficulties are chiefly occasioned by our prejudices and evil habits, by our being used to a contrary course of life. But then we are to remember that IN A LITTLE TIME THESE DIFFICULTIES WILL WEAR OFF AND WE SHALL FIND AFTER SOME TRIAL THAT A LIFE OF SINCERE RELIGION WILL BE FAR MORE NATURAL AND DELIGHTFUL THAN ANY COURSE OF SIN THAT WE WERE FORMERLY ENGAGED IN. If custom and long usage have such a strange power as to make vice and sin not only supportable, but also pleasant to us, then much more will the same custom and usage make virtue so, than which, as we have seen, nothing is more agreeable, more natural to the minds of men. We shall then acknowledge that we never till now enjoyed our true liberty, and shall rather choose to die than to return to that hard bondage we before served in to sin and Satan.
V. WHEREAS IT IS URGED AGAINST A LIFE OF RELIGION, THAT THERE IS MUCH PAINS AND WATCHFULNESS REQUIRED TO IT: THIS IS SO FAR FROM BEING A REAL DIFFICULTY OR INCONVENIENCE THAT REALLY IT IS BUT THE NATURAL EFFECT OF OUR MAKE AND CONSTITUTION. We cannot possibly be happy but in motion, and therefore to charge this as a hardship in religion that it set our wits at work, that it exercises our diligence, is a very unreasonable thing. That which makes any man uneasy in labour is not his being busy and intent upon a thing, but his spending himself upon such things or in such ways as are no ways agreeable to him. As, for instance, when he is either employed on such exercises as do more than ordinarily exhaust his animal spirits, and bring great heaviness and languor upon him; or when he lays out his pains upon that which no ways suits with his temper and genius; or, lastly, when he hath such a business in hand that he hath no prospect of bringing it to good effect, but his labour seems likely to be lost upon it. But now the diligence and application that we must use in this matter of virtue and religion (let it be otherwise as great as you please) yet hath none of those inconveniences attending upon it.
VI. Let all the hardships and difficulties of religion be magnified as much as we please, yet THE MIGHTY MOTIVES AND ENCOURAGEMENTS WE HAVE FROM THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST TO UNDERTAKE THAT WAY WILL VERY MUCH OUTWEIGH THEM.
1. Let the difficulties of religion be never so great, yet we have God's promise that He will stand by us, and enable us both to support them and to overcome them, if we ourselves be but honest (1 Corinthians 10:13).
2. Though our religion were attended with very great difficulties, yet is there nothing in that peace of conscience which every good man enjoys while he pursues virtuous ways for the smoothing those difficulties.
3. If to this we add the mighty unspeakable rewards that are promised to all faithful persevering Christians in the other world, and the sad portion that doth await all wicked men, let the difficulties of religion be never so great, yet there will be no comparison between sin and virtue, which of them is the easier, and which of them most recommends itself to the choice of mankind.
(Abp. John Sharp.)Matthew 22:14; Matthew 7:14; Luke 13:24; Luke 14:26). On the other hand, it is evident to anyone who reads the New Testament with attention that Christ and His apostles speak of a religious life as something easy, pleasant, and comfortable. Thus, in the text, "His commandments are not grievous." In like manner our Saviour says (Matthew 11:28-30). Solomon, also, in the Old Testament, speaks in the same way of true wisdom (Proverbs 3:17-24). Again, we read in Micah (Micah 6:8), "What doth the Lord require of thee," etc., as if it were a little and an easy thing so to do. Now it must be admitted, first of all, as matter of fact, that God's commandments are grievous to the great mass of Christians. Accordingly, men of worldly minds, finding the true way of life unpleasant to walk in, have attempted to find out other and easier roads; and have been accustomed to argue that there must be another way which suits them better than that which religious men walk in, for the very reason that Scripture declares that Christ's commandments are not grievous. Some have gone as far as boldly to say, "God will not condemn a man merely for taking a little pleasure," by which they mean leading an irreligious and profligate life. And many there are who virtually maintain that we may live to the world, so that we do so decently, and yet live to God; arguing that this world's blessings are given us by God, and therefore may lawfully be used moderately and thankfully. Now then let us proceed to consider how God fulfils His engagements to us, that His ways are ways of pleasantness.
1. Now, supposing some superior promised you any gifts in a particular way, and you did not follow his directions, would he have broken his promise, or you have voluntarily excluded yourselves from the advantage? Evidently you would have brought about your own loss; you might, indeed, think his offer not worth accepting, burdened, as it was, with a condition annexed to it, still you could not in any propriety say that he failed in his engagement. Now when Scripture promises us that its commandments shall be easy, it couples the promise with the injunction that we should seek God early (Proverbs 8:17; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Mark 10:14). Youth is the time of His covenant With us, when He first gives us His Spirit; first giving then that we may then forthwith begin our return of obedience to Him. Now it is obvious that obedience to God's commandments is ever easy, and almost without effort to those who begin to serve Him from the beginning of their days; whereas those who wait awhile find it grievous in proportion to their delay. For consider how gently God leads us on in our early years, and how very gradually He opens upon us the complicated duties of life. A child at first has hardly anything to do but to obey his parents; of God he knows just as much as they are able to tell him, and he is not equal to many thoughts either about Him or about the world. And while on the one hand his range of duty is very confined, observe how he is assisted in performing it. First, he has no bad habits to hinder the suggestions of his conscience; indolence, pride, ill-temper, do not then act as they afterwards act, when the mind has accustomed itself to disobedience, as stubborn, deep seated impediments in the way of duty. To obey requires an effort, of course; but an effort like the bodily effort of the child's rising from the ground, when he has fallen on it; not the effort of shaking off drowsy sleep; not the effort (far less) of violent bodily exertion in a time of sickness and long weakness: and the first effort made, obedience on s, second trial will be easier than before, till at length it will be easier to obey than not to obey. Doubtless new trials would come on him; bad passions, which he had not formed a conception of, would assail him; but (1 John 5:18; 1 John 3:19). And so he would grow up to man's estate, his duties at length attaining their full range, and his soul being completed in all its parts for the due performance of them. Thus Christ's commandments, viewed as He enjoins them on us, are not grievous. They would be grievous if put upon us all at once; but they are not heaped on us, according to His order of dispensing them, which goes upon an harmonious and considerate plan; by little and little, first one duty, then another, then both, and so on. Moreover, they come upon us while the safeguard of virtuous principle is forming naturally and gradually in our minds by our very deeds of obedience, and is following them as their reward.
2. All this being granted, it still may be objected, since the commandments of God are grievous to the generality of men, where is the use of saying what men ought to be, when we know what they are? and how is it fulfilling a promise that His commandments shall not be grievous, by informing us that they ought not to be? It is one thing to say that the law is in itself holy, just, and good, and quite a different thing to declare it is not grievous to sinful man. In answering this question, I fully admit that our Saviour spoke of man as he is, as a sinner, when He said His yoke should be easy to him. On the other hand, I grant, that if man cannot obey God, obedience must be grievous; and I grant too (of course) that man by nature cannot obey God. But observe nothing has here been said, nor by St. John in the text, of man as by nature born in sin; but of man as a child of grace, as Christ's purchased possession, who goes before us with His mercy, puts the blessing first, and then adds the command; regenerates us, and then bids us obey. When, then, men allege their bad nature as an excuse for their dislike of God's commandments, if, indeed, they are heathens, let them be heard, and an answer may be given to them even as such. But with heathens we are not now concerned. These men make their complaint as Christians, and as Christians they are most unreasonable in making it; God having provided a remedy for their natural incapacity in the gift of His Spirit. Hear St. Paul's words (Romans 5:15-21). And now to what do the remarks I have been making tend, but to this? — to humble every one of us. For, however faithfully we have obeyed God, and however early we began to do so, surely we might have begun sooner than we did, and might have served Him more heartily. Let each of us reflect upon his own most gross and persevering neglect of God at various seasons of his past life. How considerate He has been to us! How did He lead us on, duty by duty, as if step by step upwards, by the easy rounds of that ladder whose top reaches to heaven! What could have been done more to His vineyard, that He hath not done in it? And "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous." Why, then, have they been grievous to us? Why have we erred from His ways, and hardened our hearts from His fear? Let us, then, turn to the Lord, while yet we may. Difficult it will be in proportion to the distance we have departed from Him.
(J. H. Newman, D. D.)I. WHAT IS THE AFFECTION THAT A GOOD CHRISTIAN BEARS TO CHRIST? It is love; yes, that is the Christian virtue, that is the Evangelical grace. It is the main difference betwixt the law and the gospel, timor and amor. Not that a Christian ought to be free from all kind of fear. There is a three-fold fear to which we are liable.
1. As we were in our primitive state of subjection, so we owe to God a fear of loyalty as good subjects to their Prince and Sovereign.
2. Our state of rebellion, that brought upon us the fear of slavery.
3. Our state of adoption, that begets in us a filial and son-like fear.Fear, then, is not wholly excluded from the state of a Christian; but yet the grace that the gospel aims at is the grace of love (1 Timothy 1:5).
1. This love of God gives a chief title and denomination to Christians; it is their badge and cognizance (1 Corinthians 8:3). He sets much by such, and owns them, and highly accounts of them.
2. This love is the title and assurance of all His promises.
3. Love is the ingratiating quality of all our services; it is that which commends us and our services to God's acceptation. It is love that is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10). Thus Christ shows what kind of obedience He expects at our hands (Job 14). "If ye love Me, keep My commandments."The language of the gospel is not, if ye will avoid wrath, vengeance, escape damnation, then perform obedience to me; but, If ye love Me.
1. All other motives are base and servile without this willing and loving affection.
2. The service of love is only accepted because it alone is an ingenuous service, and of a right intention.
3. This service out of love is most acceptable to God because this kind of service is most honourable to God. God is a gracious sovereign, not a cruel tyrant, and so desires to be served as good subjects serve their king — out of love.
4. The service of love is the only service that God sets much by, because that service which arises from love is the only constant and lasting service. Love is long breathed and will hold out and persevere; whereas fear is a flincher and will soon tire and start aside.
II. THE FRUIT OF THIS LOVING AFFECTION, the action that flows from it, that is obedience. Herein is love, that we keep His commandments — that is the kindly proof of our love.
1. It shows our love to God must be an active, and operative, and working love. Indeed, love is seated in the will, the fountain of action; it rests not in our understanding, the knowing faculty. It is not a mere notion or speculation, swimming in the brain, but a devout affection rooted in the heart.
2. It puts another qualification on our love; it is not a love of equality, but a love of subjection and inferiority; such a love as the inferior bears to his superior that hath a power to command him.
3. It shows that our love to God must be a love regulated and restrained to what God commands us. Offer to Him not thine inventions, but His own prescriptions.
4. This shows our love to God must be entire and universal, of as large extent, as all God's commandments. As before ye heard of a restriction, so here we meet with an extension. Love must be the fulfilling of the law.
III. WHAT IS THE DISPOSITION AND INCLINATION THAT HE WHICH LOVES GOD FINDS IN HIMSELF TO GOD'S COMMANDMENTS?
1. Indeed, in some respects, it is most true, God's commandments are exceeding heavy.(1) Take the law of God at its full height and pitch of perfection, so it hath a great difficulty in it; yea, in a manner, an impossibility in it to all men since Adam.(2) Take the law in the lowest pitch of righteousness, yet an unregenerate man cannot obey it. He is so far from fulfilling all the law that he cannot perform the least part of it. If the root be not good, which is faith working by love, the fruit, though outwardly specious, is inwardly vicious.(3) Consider the law in the evangelical mitigation and abatement of it, yet still the saints of God find difficulty in it. A regenerate man is two men. That which is spiritual and renewed in him, that readily conforms to the law of God. "The Spirit is willing," saith our Saviour. Aye, but the flesh is weak; nay, oftentimes wilful, stubborn, and resisting.
2. But yet it is most true what the text affirms, God's commandments are not grievous. His service is no such hard service as the world accounts it. It is a hard service indeed (for why should we be left to a lawless liberty?), but it is an ingenuous service. God's servants find no grievances in this employment.(1) Look upon their state and condition. God's people are not in any base, servile condition; but(a) they are called unto a state of liberty, and liberty is sweet in itself and sweetens all our employments.(b) As it is a free so it is an honourable service. As we know, the greatness of the Master dignifies and ennobles the service that is done unto Him.(2) Look upon their task and employment, you shall find the service of God is no such wearisome service.(a) The work which God enjoins them is possible to them. God's commandments are made possible to a regenerate man (Philippians 4:13). Flesh and blood sees nothing in the law of God but impossibility; like the unbelieving spies — oh, we cannot conquer the land. But faith and love, like Caleb and Joshua, conceive it may be done, and undertake it readily.(b) This work is easy; I said it even now.(c) This work is not only possible and easy, but pleasant and delightful, a good Christian finds exceeding great pleasure and sweetness in it.(3) Look upon the encouragements that Christians find in the service of God; they will make it appear that the service of God is no such irksome service.(a) God helps and assists His servants in all their works. This He doth by putting their souls into a right frame of holiness.(b) God's merciful connivance. When His servants that desire to serve Him, yet fail, and fall short of what is their duty, God winks at their failings, and passes by them. See this graciously promised to us (Malachi 3:17).(c) The many heartenings and secret cheerings that God vouchsafes to His servants in the course of their obedience. He is no churlish Nabal, sour and harsh to His poor servants, but puts life and heart into them.(i) He vouchsafes His presence to them, as Boaz to his reapers. The Master's eye, the cheerfulness of His countenance, is the man's encouragement.(ii) He speaks cheerfully to their hearts. "Well done, faithful servant" (Acts 18:9)(iii) His loving acceptance of our poor services. Our faithful endeavours, our honest desires, our sincere intentions, are graciously accepted.(d) His bountiful rewarding of us, besides the grand payment, the weight of glory, the reward of the inheritance. How many encouraging blessings and favours doth He bestow upon His servants, over and above? Besides their wages they have their avails out of their Master's bounty. David found it and acknowledgeth it. Thou hast dealt bountifully with Thy servant.
(Bp. Brownrigg.)I. THE LAWS OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION ARE REASONABLE IN THEMSELVES; that is, they are agreeable to the natural light of our minds and the answers of inward truth, whenever we put the question to it. It is true, there are some few positive commands in the gospel which do not directly arise from any principle of natural reason, but then they are such as cannot be urged to prove the difficulties of revealed religion; yet supposing the truth of the Christian revelation, God had wise reasons for their institution.
II. THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION LAYS THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF INWARD PEACE AND SATISFACTION OF MIND. This indeed is a necessary consequence of our acting as becomes reasonable agents. And who would not be content to undergo some slight trouble and inconvenience, or to deny himself in many things, provided he may have all things calm and quiet within?
1. The practice of religion has a natural tendency to secure the peace and freedom of our minds, as it preserves them in an even and sedate temper; as it removes every occasion of the disorders which are apt to ruffle us, and keeps our appetites within their due bounds.
2. Upon a moral account, religion gives us the supports of a good conscience, the assurances of God's favour, and fills the mind with bright and pleasing ideas.
3. Christians, in a faithful discharge of their duty, have their hearts frequently filled with the delights of an overcoming and supernatural grace.
III. WE ARE ENCOURAGED TO THE PRACTICE OF RELIGION BY THE ASSISTANCES OF A SUPERNATURAL POWER AND GRACE.
IV. WE ARE FURTHER ENCOURAGED TO THE PRACTICE OF OUR CHRISTIAN DUTY BY THE PROPOSAL OF A GLORIOUS AND ETERNAL REWARD. Conclusion:
1. Are the laws of religion reasonable in themselves? Let us then either follow them, or renounce reason.
2. Does the practice of religion conduce to the inward peace and satisfaction of our minds? Why do we oppose our own happiness? How strange is the infatuation of sin! How fraught with contradiction!
3. Have we indeed a Divine principle to assist us in the performance of our duty? Let us then, in all our spiritual wants and conflicts, be fervent in our prayers to God for the assistances of His Holy Spirit, and faithfully comply with them.
4. Besides all these motives to religion, has the good God still encouraged us to the practice of it by proposing to us the great and glorious rewards of eternity? Let us live as if we really believe them. It is impossible that any difficulty should stand before a firm and steady belief in them.
(R. Fiddes, D. D.)
(S. Palmer.)Matthew 11:30). I will not dwell on the mild and gentle character of the gospel ordinances, in contrast with the complex and burdensome ritual of Moses. But leaving this point, I ask whether the commandments of God are grievous when brought into comparison with the law of sin, when that tyranny is established in the soul? Oh, the labours, the toils, the vexing cases, the soul destroying practice, of those who are governed by Satan! Earthquake and pestilence, and famine and sword, have cut off multitudes; but who slew all these? If the hand of God hath slain in its direct judgment its thousands, wilful sin hath offered on its thousand altars its ten thousands. The commandments of God, indeed, are not grievous comparatively. But neither are they grievous considered in themselves absolutely, irrespective of all comparison.
1. For, consider the Lawgiver, is He not such a Being, that, could it be proved that any commandments, purporting to come from Him, are rigid and unbearable to a well-constituted mind, it would be at once a sufficient evidence that they did not derive their origin from Him? "God," our apostle says, "is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:3). Then, we are assured, that His commandments will be very pure, and strictly just (Psalm 19:9). But God is "love," benevolence, untinctured by any infusion of malignity.
2. Let us take another view of the subject, and contemplate the persons who obey these commandments. The commandments are grievous to the people of the world, it is admitted; for that which is the object of the mind's distaste and hatred, must of necessity be burdensome. But every true Christian has a mind attempered to the will of God. He is "born of God," and as the invariable consequence of this change a similarity of character, of judgment, of taste, is formed within him. God, and the child of God, therefore, view the commandments in the same light. God does not esteem them grievous; neither does he that is begotten of Him (Psalm 119:128).
3. We shall take another view of the subject, by considering the assistances which are given to those who obey the commandments. The Holy Ghost is promised (Isaiah 40:30, 31; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 59:19; Ephesians 3:16).
4. Regard their nature. Resolving the commandments into their most simple element, we find that love is the fulfilling of the whole law. There could be no defect in our obedience did such a love exist in its perfection. Then, I ask, can God's commandments be grievous to the man who obeys them? Can it be a burdensome thing to the soul to overflow with benevolence?
5. Consider the effect of obedience to the commandments upon the happiness of life, and you arrive at the same conclusion — that they are not grievous. "The statutes of the Lord," David says, "are right, rejoicing" "the heart" (Psalm 19:8). In keeping them there is great reward. "Great peace have they which love Thy law" (Psalm 119:165). And who shall say how many miseries are turned away from the lot of him who keeps in the narrow way of the heavenly precepts?
6. One further view of the subject is necessary to complete the argument for the truth of our text. Let us consider it, then, in the connection which exists between the observance of the commandments and the attainment of future glory. Obedience is a preparatory formation of the tempers of heaven; the tuning of the soul for the anthems of eternity. The labourer rises up early, and late takes rest, and eats the bread of carefulness; but his toil is reckoned as nothing for the wages that are to recompense it. The adventurer ploughs the stormy deep, travels over continents of ice, and explores the frost-bound north; and his labours are not grievous, even in hope, of some discovery with which his name shall in after days be linked. On every hand fatigue is cheerfully borne, privations are submitted to, for some recompense bounded by the present life. And is not the Christian's glory lofty enough, and his crown bright enough, to induce us to say that the commandments, in obeying which he is preparing for it, are not grievous?
(T. Kennion, M. A.)
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